Tonight, as the clock strikes midnight I will turn 40! My first act as a newly minted quadragenarian will most likely be a night of fitful sleep (a given) followed by a chaotic morning marshaling everyone out of the door on time and appropriately dressed (not a given). Such is life. At forty, one must swap the “all is hell or all is well” radicalism of her twenties and the “here I am, hear me roar” forced pathos of her thirties for the accumulated weight of a life lived in the trenches.
Sure, in your forties you are comfortable in your own (religiously moisturized) skin, do not get affected in any meaningful degree by social pressure (you take it as far as to vote for a third party or independent candidate), your kids have safely made it passed the toddler/preschool years and do not need you to wait on them hand and foot any longer (cheers to that), you have weathered a crisis or two and have earned (earned, I say) the right to claim seasoned adult status without feeling like an usurper, your understanding of life’s obstacles and general unfairness has become much more nuanced and refined and as a consequence you are less prone to accept things at face value (about time). On the other hand, most probably, acute grief over a great loss (miscarriage, divorce, death) has already clutched your heart manifesting as chronic stress, trouble sleeping, feelings of anger and bitterness and forced your hand in unexpected ways. Also, what choice do you have but to take your turn as the sandwich generation responsible for bringing up your own children and for the care of your aging parents? Surely, at forty you are well versed in mortgage rates and maturity investment plans, at least knowledgeable enough to ask the right questions to the right people (thank you Google search) but you still feel like a fool when it comes to finding the right words to soothe your child’s worries, your partner’s anxiety, your mom’s fears about her rapid memory loss. Nevertheless, from now on, you are the designated grown up in the room, required at all times to show proof of possession of high-functioning adulthood: a steady job, a 401K, a Master’s degree, a family and a social life.
Yet, if you feel you are failing miserably at having it all figured out, don’t. Listen to yourself. Don’t be afraid to feel your feelings. After all, there is no manual on how to live and growing up surely does not abide by age limits. Most importantly, pay mind to the whispers you utter softly to yourself in the middle of the night:
The world moves so fast, don’t let your mind get caught up in its endless race - pace yourself to your own rhythm.
Don’t equate your purpose with goal-based achievements.
Embrace your enthusiasms passionately and without shame.
Cancel the idea that it’s cool to be “detached” and uncaring.
Have the willingness to listen to your inner voice.
It’s OK not being OK (not everything heals).
Give yourself room to breathe.
Keep your head high.
Dare to be true to You.